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Campus prepares for severe weather, disasters

By CIDNIE SYDNEY-BREWINGTON | Staff Writer

The month of April is known for its high winds and thunderstorms which can cause damage to both the APSU and surrounding communities. APSU has taken steps towards providing safety and aid to both communities. To provide safety, APSU is now StormReady certified and to aid those affected by the weather the Geographic Information System Center has developed a cell phone application to expedite damage assessment.

StormReady certification

To provide the APSU and surrounding communities with improved safety and preparation for all types of emergencies, APSU was certified through the nationwide community preparedness program StormReady, Wednesday, March 30.

“The certification means we have a 24 hour warning location and an emergency operations center,” said Lt. Carl Little, Public Safety supervisor. From the emergency operations center, APSU can monitor local weather conditions, issue severe weather warnings and forecasts and provide data to the National Weather Service. “We also have a hazardous weather plan that includes trained weather spotters.”

As part of the certification, weather radios were purchased and installed in the MUC and residence halls, a hydrometeorological weather station was installed on the roof of the Shasteen building and campus police were trained on how to manage the program.

Another component of the StormReady certification is community preparedness. “We will participate in the National Weather Service’s public awareness program by hosting community seminars and training for the greater Clarksville area,” Little said. “We [will also] participate with the Montgomery County Emergency Management Agency in hosting emergency exercises.”

The certification lasts two years and can be updated after. To maintain it, APSU must pass annual inspections by the National Weather Service. After four years, APSU must complete the certification process again to maintain standards.

Damage Mitigation and Recovery Kit (DMARK)

The GIS Center, in conjunction with Oak Ridge National Laboratory, received the Southeast Regional Research Initiative $400,000 grant from the Department of Homeland Security to improve DMARK, a damage assessment cell phone application.

Currently, damage is assessed with a paper and pencil process. A preliminary damage assessment form is filled out, transcribed, compiled and then reviewed before relief aid can be requested.

“DMARK puts all of that on a Smartphone. It expedites data compilation and gets rid of paper and pencil,” said Mike Wilson, manager of the GIS Center. Expedited damage assessment gets relief aid to damaged areas as quickly as possible.

The GIS Center and Oak Ridge National Laboratory co-designed the initial prototype of the app two years ago and completed the prototype early April 2010. One month later, the Monday after the May flooding, Montgomery County decided to use the app for damage assessment and mapping.

“[After that] we thought the project was dead, but in about November [of 2010], it came back to life. We did a presentation for FEMA Region 4. And after Christmas, we found out there was a second round of funding,” said Wilson. The funding ends Friday, Sept. 30 and Wilson hopes to have a second working prototype for Android, iPhone and possibly Blackberry.

After conducting a survey and talking with local damage assessment agencies to assess their needs, the second prototype will feature customizable assessment forms, continued connectivity for electronically sending messages, improved reporting and extraction of data and more mapping info.

The GIS Center will present the improved damage assessment app at the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Division’s Technology Expo in Washington, D.C. April 28. “We just want to show off the technology and generate interest which will hopefully generate feedback,” said Wilson. TAS

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